Ministers are running out of opportunities to stop unfair trade deals between the EU and ACP

Published: 24 May 2007

 As Ministers from Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) meet their European counterparts in Brussels today to review ongoing trade negotiations civil society organizations from around the world are calling for the EU’s partnership with the ACP to become exactly that: a partnership for development, not a free trade time bomb.

With the deadline for negotiations at the end of the year drawing closer, today’s EU-ACP Ministerial meeting provides one of the last opportunities for Ministers to re-orientate talks so that they promote rather than undermine development.

Civil society groups are concerned that current proposals threaten to undermine poverty reduction and destroy livelihoods. The EU’s dogged insistence on including liberalization that goes far beyond what is being negotiated at the World Trade Organization (WTO) as well as commitments in areas which developing countries have rejected at the WTO makes proposed Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) likely to have a devastating effect on ACP economies. Additional pressure due to the deadline for talks at the end of 2007 is pushing ACP countries to sign an agreement before they are ready or the full impact is clear.

Thomas Deve of MWENGO, said: “If EPAs are signed because of a WTO deadline rather than because they are good for development, they will fail. If African, Caribbean and Pacific countries are forced to liberalize their trade, and make commitments in other areas like services and investment, millions of poor people could lose their livelihoods and be pushed further into poverty.”

Deborah Scott of ACORD said: "Trade, under the right conditions, can lift millions out of poverty. But these deals threaten to undermine poverty reduction by locking in fundamental changes to ACP countries’ trade policy. This will undermine future economic growth and deprive poor countries of the space they need to choose the best solutions to end poverty and protect the environment”.

Civil society organizations are asking Ministers to ensure that development is the central focus of any agreement – not just in Ministerial speeches but also in negotiating texts. Any trade agreement between the ACP and EU must take into account the development needs of the weaker partners and allow for the necessary flexibility and time to implement changes. The deals should be non-reciprocal and should not include issues that developing countries have rejected elsewhere.

Marc Maes of 11.11.11 said: “We are calling on the Ministers meeting here today to take time to fully assess the implications for development and poverty reduction. ACP governments must not be pressured into signing deals just to maintain current market access. For WTO compatibility only trade in goods needs to be covered. Improving rules of origin and supporting regional integration should be the priorities, not pursuing a free trade agenda that will harm development.

Contact Information

For more information, please contact:
Alexander Woollcombe on +32 (0) 223 11663, alexander.woollcombe@oxfaminternational.org